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Family Adventures Close to Home



Scotland's west coast is perfect for a day trip, short break, Island Hopping adventure and last minute family holiday idea!

The islands are considered some of the most beautiful and remote destinations in the world - and you don't have to travel far to experience the great activities within them!

If you like archaeological treasures, fresh cuisine, extraordinary wildlife and an abundance of outdoor fun and family adventures, you're in for a real treat when you sail with CalMac. Don't forget, kids under five years old travel free! 


Beautiful Bute can be reached from Wemyss Bay or Colintraive - you can be on the island in 35 or 5 minutes respectively, yet you'll feel like you've travelled further.

The island is renowned for its fantastic, sheltered beaches and its famously grand architecture. Catch views of Arran from Scalpsie Bay or enjoy the wide sandy beach of Ettrick Bay. The bay is also popular spot with local wildlife - look out for seabirds and perhaps catch a glimpse at the elusive sea eagle.

Spend a day at Mount Stuart, the island's striking 19th Century neo-gothic mansion, with its famous collection of art and literature set against a backdrop  of world-famous gothic architecture. Take a look at the Visitor Centre and Courtyard shops which stock a range of unique local and regional crafts. The Courtyard team bakes and cooks from scratch and uses local produce such as meats from Macqueens butcher, smoked fish from Ritchie's of Rothesay and ice cream from Zavaroni's. Their philosophy is to take great ingredients and create hearty soups, fresh sandwiches and salads, hot 'Bute Bakes' and irresistible scones and cakes. The Visitor Centre, Courtyard Cafe and Shop are currently closed and will reopen on 3 April 2020.


Sail to Arran from Ardrossan in less than an hour. The island is so geographically diverse, it's often referred to as 'Scotland in Miniature' - thanks to its mixes of beaches and bays, mountain and moorland. The island's main town is home to the magnificent baronial Brodick Castle, Garden and Country Park.

Having recently undergone a refurbishment, it offers a new visitor experience - inside you'll find Victorian guides who will share with you the castle's history and stories. There's a series of wildly popular Victorian games to try your hand at too. The Isle Be Wild adventure play park is ideal for explorers of all ages to enjoy - one section is for toddlers and younger children and one is for older children. This epic woodland playground features zip wires, high towers, bridges across burns and jungle-style walkways - a real paradise for our younger visitors. The play park also includes the Red Squirrel Kiosk, perfect for tasty ice creams, hot dogs and hot/cold drinks. 

Note that Brodick Castle and Gardens are closed until April, but the Country Park is opened all year.

Continuing with the historical theme, make time to see Lochranza Castle at the northern tip of Arran, with connections to Robert the Bruce, King James VI, and even TinTin

Arran also has a big reputation for great food and drink with many island producers making homegrown quality produce. From cheese to chutney, ales to whisky, artisan chocolate to ice-cream, it won't be a problem to keep your energy levels up as you explore the island.

Brodick Castle playground

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The Isle of Cumbrae, also known as Great Cumbrae is just a few minutes' sail from Largs. At just 4 miles long and 2 miles wide, it's perfect for a spot of walking or cycling around the 10-mile circular loop, or up and over the top taking in some stunning coastal views. Sea and fresh water fishing are also available here - and there's plenty of marine life to spot all over the island. Stop in at the Field Studies Council to find out more. Or pop into the Garrison House - home to the Museum of the Cumbraes to learn about 18th century smugglers.


Whether you're travelling as part of an Island Hopping adventure from Bute over to Cowal, or taking the frequent passenger service from Gourock to Dunoon - the Cowal Peninsula offers you a taste of the Highlands. The bustling town of Dunoon is steeped in history and heritage. Pop into the Castle House Museum to trace its history from Neolithic times. Perhaps you'll visit in time for the biggest Highland Games in the world - the Cowal Highland Gathering? Do make time to visit the memorable Benmore Botanic Garden - a 120-acre mountainside garden, with avenues of conifer trees of incredible stature, and plants from the Orient, Himalayas, as well as North and South America - all on our doorstep in Argyll. 

Family at Benmore Gardens

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Known as the jewel of the Hebrides, Colonsay is another tiny island, bursting with reasons to visit. It's a two-hour ferry ride from Oban, which like many of our routes, can be your sole destination, or part of a longer Island Hopping tour - where you build an itinerary, taking you from one island to another at your own pace. For instance, team Colonsay with Islay to make a superb cycling trip - enjoying the incredible local food and drink as you travel.



Less than an hour from Oban lies the isle of Mull - home of the dramatic Duart Castle, which sits high on a cliff-top, proudly guarding the Firth of Lorne. On Mull, you'll also find the fishing port of Tobermory, famous for its pastel coloured houses, which line the harbour. There's around 300 miles of coastline to explore on Mull - with beautiful bays of turquoise water. On that coastline lies one of Mull's most famous spots - Calgary Bay.


Check out all of our Destinations and Island Hopping adventures to see what float's your boat or go ahead book your fun-filled family trip. 

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Map of CalMac routes and ports on west coast of Scotland

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